This week on Senior Voices, Mary Harris recalls her early memories of growing up in the Deep South, and has some advice to share with the present generation. She spoke with Dayton Metro Library Volunteer Interviewer, Pamela Waltrip.
MARY HARRIS (MH): I was born in Bessemer, Alabama, July 15, 1948.
PAMELA WALTRIP (PW): What’s your earliest memory?
MH: I had a good childhood, you know. I was practically raised by my aunt and uncle, cause my mom had to work all the time. They were strict, and um I didn’t like it at first, but I realize that they were very protective of me, you know, but everything worked out ok and I’m just glad I had a chance to thank them for raising me so hard as they did, you know, I got a chance to thank them before they both passed away.
PW: What’s your best memory then, from childhood?
MH: At that age I was strictly a tomboy, skating, we made our own skates we made those skate boards from regular skates, break up some wood or something like that and take and nailed those skates’ wheels on that board to skate all up and down the road in the neighborhood, never got in any trouble ‘cause we were out all day, practically.
PW: Did you have any favorite stories that your family used to tell or that you had happen to you?
MH: Well, when you have the family cookout, that was fun, you know you get to just eat up everything, play all kind of funny games, you get to meet family members that you don’t normally see but once and year and there’d be a whole lot of us and so you don’t have to know their name but you got along em with ‘cause you knew they was family and it was just a fun time.
PW: What did you do after you graduated from high school?
MH: I went to a home college in Alabama that lasted about six months and I got pregnant and I had one child.
PW: Were you married at some point?
MH: Yes, I got married at 38 that goes to show you I thought I was getting a little too old for that one, but it came through. I have one grandson. He live in Fairborn. Oh, I love him to no end.
PW: How old is your grandson?
MH: He’s 25 years old.
PW: You sound like you’re very proud of your grandson.
MH: I am. He’s a tattoo artist, goes to Sinclair College, and he’s good.
PW: He sounds very creative.
MH: He is, very much so.
PW: I won’t ask you if you have a tattoo.
MH: I got a tattoo when I turned 50 years old. And it’s like a little dot on my leg, you almost have to put some oil on it to bring it to life, you know, been there so long, and it’s just a little heart with a rose going though it and my name. That was my 50th birthday present I gave to me. That was a hundred years ago...
PW: So what advice do give your young grandson?
MH: Oh, choose your friends, be your own self, learn to love yourself first, then the rest will follow, and I just tell you know, go out there and nothing is impossible, if you want it bad enough you’ll get it in an honest way, that’s the way we do this.
This interview was edited by Community Voices producer Alan Staiger. Senior Voices is a collaboration between the Dayton Metro Library, Rebuilding Together Dayton, and WYSO. This series is made possible through the generous support of the Del Mar Healthcare Fund of the Dayton Foundation.